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Published: September 7th 2011
Before the 20th Century, rugged mountains virtually isolated Sichuan Province from eastern China, and it was only a 400 mile stretch of the Yangtzi River (Chang Jiang in Chinese), linking the huge city of Chongqing with the city of Yichang in Hubei Province that opened Sichuan and the West to eastern China.
The journey was a perilous one, as the Yangtzi River came tearing through the "sheer-sided" Three Gorges. The 3 Gorges "were" marvellous, though dangerous. Boats could only make it upstream with the help of "trackers". These were teams of low-paid men, who were harnessed together, and pulled boats, inch by inch, through the torrents of the Gorge. Paths cut into the banks of the Yangtze made the work somewhat easier and a little less hazardous. Some of them are still visible above the "new" maximum waterline, in several places through the Three Gorges.
Today, this same journey makes a popular cruise through some still wonderful scenery, with regular stops at some famous sights.
I had made long preparations to embark on this River Cruise for sometime, and this past summer was the time to make this Yangtze River dream-journey a reality, on the fabulous cruise ship
called, "Century Diamond".
Sadly, much of the naturally rugged scenery through the Three Gorges has changed as the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest, has been closing its giant sluice gates since 2009, and the reservoir filled upon completion.
The Three Gorges Dam has changed the landscape along the Yangtze River drastically and irrevocably. The Three Gorges are now 575 feet "less" deep, that is almost 200 yard and 175 meters !!!! With this enormous rise in the water-level, the homes of millions of people have been submerged, and many historical sites are now under water.
Taming the torrents of the Yangtze had one benefit: The cruising season along the Yangtze has now been extended and the journey through the Three Gorges has become a very leisure and "less" exciting adventure.
The Yangtze River cuts its way through Central China from West to East. It begins on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and flows 3,900 miles to Shanghai, where it empties into the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
This makes the Yangtze the longest river in China, as well as the third longest river in the world.
The Yangtze River cuts through thirteen different
Ancient walk-ways are reconstructed into the mountain cliffs, its planks made of glass.
It will become a special adventure, to walk along miles of ancient paths, once created by the military of the Han dynasty. Cliffs were drilled with post-holes, and planks were used to create the miles of routes. On many spots, as you can see by enlarging this photo, the planks are made of a special glass. As you are walking, it is as if walking on air, above the torrents of water.
provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions along its path.
One third of China's total population live along the Yangtze and one third of China's major cities are situated along the River.
The Yangtzi River boasts some of the most abundant and famed scenic areas in all of China, both for their natural beauty and the reliques of ancient civilizations.
The river embraces more than 300 famous places of interest, among them the great "Mountain City" of Chongqing, the "Dazu Stone Carvings", the "Ghost City" and "Snow Jade Cave" of Fengdu county, the "Lesser Three Gorges" of Wushan County, the "Three Gorges Dam", the "Yellow Crane Tower" of Wuhan City, and many more as The Yangtze continues to wind its way through the Province of Anhui toward the ancient cities of Nanjing, Yangzhou, passed my city of TAIZHOU, and on to Shanghai.
Though it is possible to begin or end this cruise in Shanghai, taking almost 2 weeks at much greater expense, my ship, the Century Diamond, would embark from the city of Yichang in Hubei Province, about 3 hours West of the large city of Wuhan. My cruise would take 5 days and 4 nights.
Diamond Cruise Ship as about 350 feet long and about 55 feet wide, with a capacity of 264 passengers. It is a five star floating hotel, with all the facilities and amenities. All cabins have private balconies, and the two large restaurants served three wonderful meals, daily. All the side-excursions were included and well-planned. These would take visitors to the 1. Three Gorges Dam; 2. An exciting, (though wet) water journey through the Lesser or Mini Three Gorges; 3. The White Emperor City; and 3. The Snow Jade Cave.
The ship would be lifted by a complex series of five locks over the newly constructed "Three Gorges Dam", one of the world's largest contruction projects, to continue its journey through the "Three Gorges": a. The Xiling Gorge containing the Three Gorges Dam, b. The Wu Gorge and a visit through the spectacular Three "Lesser" Gorges, and c. The Qutang Gorge with visits to the White Emperor City.
A. THREE GORGES DAM: Located near Yichang City, Hubei Province, the Three Gorges Dam is the largest water conservancy project in the world, but not constructed without some serious controversy. The construction began in 1993 and was completed at the end
The Yangtze River Cruises are made luxurious by shipe like mine, the CENTURY DIAMOND, here waiting for embarkation.
THERE ARE 107 PHOTOS, AND WITH THIS PICTURE OF MY SHIP, THE CENTURY DIAMOND, WE NOW BEGIN OUR CRUISE DOWN THE YANGTZE RIVER, PASSING THROUGH THE THREE GORGES, AND THE 4 SIDE EXCURSIONS OFFERED BY THE CRUISE COMPANY.
of 2008. The Three Gorges Dam is more than 7,000 feet long and almost 600 feet high. It consists of a spill way, power plants, double lane five-step ship-locks and a ship lift. The dam has a comprehensive funtion of flood control, improving navigation, power generation and irrigation.
B. THE LESSER THREE GORGES: I found the imposing cliffs and lush mountains in the three separate valleys on the Daning River and down the Shennong Stream more fascinating and beautiful than those of the Three main Gorges. The visit was arranged as part of a side-excursion, not to be missed by any traveller along the Yangtze River.
The Dragon Gate Gorge, the Misty Gorge and Emerald Gorge, or combined called, The Mini Three Gorges, provide spectacular views up sheer cliffs and steep mountains. Here, on a smaller scale but no less impressive, is what the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River must have looked like, before the almost 600 feet water-level-rise due the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. But the impact of this water-level rise is also clearly visible here.
This water-journey was probably the highlight of my whole cruise, as we travelled in smaller boats, (we
had to change to ever-smaller boats two times), up the ever-narrowing and ever-more shallow waters of the Shannong Stream.
The cliffs are pocked with post-holes marking the route of a Han-dynasty plank road, built for military access. Some of this road is under reconstruction, and post holes have again been drilled into the cliff-sides. "Glass-planks have been layed and provide security from certain death into the waters below. When completed, it will become an amazing and daring walk.
Fascinating are the still visible hanging coffins, as well as the trails carved into the sides of rock, high above the raging waters. The hanging coffins were mortised into the steep gorge walls over a thousand years ago by the now-vanished Bai people. The Three Lesser Gorges area is an unusually beautiful and natural place, where amazing rock-walls echo of ancient history.
C. THE WHITE EMPEROR CITY (Fengjie Baidi City): A few miles into Fenjie County, on the northern bank of the Yangtze River is Baidi City, also known as the White Emperor City. It is located at the mouth of the Qutang Gorge. It is said, that during the Western Han Dynasty, over 2,200 years ago, Gongsun Shu,
a general, set up a separatist regime by force of arms in Sichuan. He claimed himself the King of Shu. Because he saw white fog rising from the well of the mountain, which was like a white dragon, he called himself the White Emperor. He made it the capital city and gave it the name - White Emperor City.
The city has been repaired several times, and even now is under reconstruction. Surrounded by water on three sides, it was often the point of battle in China's 5,000 year history. The vista, down into the steep Qutang Gorge, as viewed from the White Emperor City on the fortress-hill, his well-represented on China's 10 Yuan money note.
Its most famous historical fables date from the Three Kindoms Period (over 1,800 years ago). Many of these have been immortalized in prose and films.
One story goes, that Zhang Fei was a sworn blood brother and general of Liu Bei, leader of the State of Shu during this period of history. He was a violent, courageous and tactless man, and he was a heavy drinker.
He once famously defended a strategically-placed bridge single-handed, roaring out a challenge to the
advancing enemy horde with such blood-curdling ferocity, that one of their leaders dropped dead on the spot.
After his brother Guan Yu was killed, Zhang Fei became depressed and he overworked his troops. They eventually assassinated him in his sleep.
The temple, constructed in his honor, is in the process of being re-located, as the water levels rise. The temple is filled with colorful statues recounting scenes of his life.
Other relics housed in the Baidi Temple are a stele forest, ancient suspended wooden coffins and paintings and calligraphy works of different dynasties.
Since the water level has risen, due to the "Three Gorges Dam Project", Baidi City has become an isolated island, surrounded by water. In order to facilitate tourists to visit this unique ancient temple site, a "wind-rain bridge" has been built at the foot of The White Emperor City. From here, hundreds of steps lead visitors into this ancient mountain-city-fortress.
D. THE FENGDU SNOW JADE CAVE (Xue Yu Dong): The Snow Jade Cave was only discovered in the mid-1900s, and is the youngest discovered cave in China. It is located about 8 miles from the new county of Fengdu, and has been
From the deck of the CENTURY DIAMOND, passengers still admire some of the cliff-shores heading into the Three Gorges.
Before the rapids along the Yangtze River were cleared in the 1950's, boats could only make it up-stream with the help of trackers. Teams of men were harnessed together to literally pull the boat, inch by inch, through the Three Gorges' torrents.
rated as one of the most beautiful caves by China's National Geographic.
Because of its beauty and uniqueness, it has become a popular scenic spot along the Yangtze River. Most of the stalactites in the cave are white and pure as jade, thus the name, Snow Jade Cave.
The stalactite in this cave grow rather quickly. They can grow as quickly as "33" millimeters in 100 years!!! In contrast, in other such caves, the stalactite only grows "1" millimeter in 100 years.
The cave houses many spectacular karst formations. Some look like waterfalls, shields, coral and some have the shape of animals. One stone shield, at 13 feet, is unique and is known at the Snowy Jade Penguin. So, Snow Jade Cave is often referred to as the "white marble sculpture museum."
Tourists can walk the cave through 3 floors and some 5,000 feet of developed walk-ways in about an hour.
But if some narrow paths inside a cave make you claustrophobic, you will be able to photograph a colony interesting monkeys near the entrance of the Snow Jade Cave, as they snatch food from your hands.
So that is a short summary of
our shore-excursions along our journey through the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. I celebrated my birthday on board with a delicious cake in the company of some wonderful and friendly fellow passangers.
The Century Diamond Cruise Ship arrived the 5th morning in the large city of Chongqing. I had hired a car and driver and an English-speaking tourguide, and they waited for me at the exit gates. After a drive through the city of Chongqing, a huge city, I asked the tourguide to take me to Baoding Shan to the small city of Dazu, to visit the spectacular and well-preserved "cave-carvings" of Dazu. In December 1990, this site was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
My visit to the Carvings of Dazu will be the subject of the next TravelBlog entry.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and the commentary for my journey along the Yangtze River and through the Three Gorges. If you find the time, as always, I encourage you to click on the photos, to enlarge them for their details. I encourage your questions and thoughts and comments and hope, that some day soon, you also can enjoy this wonderful
journey along China's greatest river.
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